Caves Built in 600 C.E. and Temples of Single Stone – Here’s why India is the Land of Temples

India is a country known for its centuries-old history. The best places to witness it are the temples that have withstood the ravages of time. The architecture and mystery of these ancient halls of knowledge reflect the nuanced aspects of the Hindu religion.

So, here is a page in Indian folklore that will take you on a journey, which has intrigued mankind for ages!

Kailasa temple, Aurangabad

Source: Flickr

Carved out of a single piece of rock, this temple is one most ancient reflections of Hindu religion. Kailasa temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and can be found in cave no. 16 of Ellora caves. This temple has a fascinating history where workers carved out the temple from the top of the rock and proceeded downwards.

This religious attraction has always been surrounded by mystery. The biggest question is how did workers with simple tools such as hammers and chisels carve out more than 350,000 tonnes of rock and build a temple over 18 years.

Big stone carvings and paintings are a depiction of different Hindu deities with special dedication to Shiva.  Some carvings also show images or god, goddesses and tiny humans, animals below them.

This example of Indian art and architecture is known for its mysterious narrow underground tunnels. No one knows about when and where these tunnels end. The biggest question is how were these tunnels created if not meant for human beings. Is it a pathway to an underground ancient city? If history intrigues you and solving another mystery from a page in Indian folklore is something you want to do, head to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ellora Caves.

Konark Sun Temple, Odisha

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This 13th century Sun temple in Konark, Odisha is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This ancient temple is dedicated to the Hindu Sun God, Surya. This popular tourist attraction was built in 1250 CE. You will be intrigued by the fact that the ruins of this revered temple now reflect the appearance of a 100-foot high chariot with big wheels and horses.

People wanting to know more about Hindu culture will be surprised to know that Konark temple’s intricate artwork and themes actually showcase erotic Kama (desire, wish, longing) and Mithuna(sexual union) depictions. The temple’s architecture is full of symbolism as the chariot’s 12 pairs of wheels represent the 12 months of the Hindu calendar.

If you wish to travel back in time to know more about the ways of living in the past, you will find artwork of soldiers and musicians. There are also images depicting the secular life of people and festivities.

The temple has been built facing the east so that the first rays of the sun fall on the main entrance of the complex.

Vitthala Temple, Hampi

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This iconic temple is located in Hampi and dates back to the 15th century. It is also known as the Shri Vijaya Vitthala temple. According to Indian folklore, it was built as a resting place for Lord Vishnu’s avatar, Vitthala.

This centuries-old attraction is famous for its stone chariot and musical pillars. The main part of the Maha Mantapa is known for housing 16 pillars that have sculptures of Narasimha and Yali. These pillars form a rectangular court.

The Ranga Mantapa is known for its 56 musical pillars. These pillars are known to emit the seven distinct musical notes when gently tapped. The main pillars have apparently been designed as musical instruments. 7 minor pillars surround each major pillar and release 7 different musical notes. These pillars have been built out of a single piece of resonant stone.

Amarnath, Jammu and Kashmir

Source: Wikimedia Commons

One of the Chardham temples, this centuries old cave temple is located in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The most interesting part about this temple is that it is not man-made and is said to be more than 5000 years old.

Inside the cave you will find a stalagmite which has been formed due to the freezing water droplets growing up vertically from the cave floor. According to devout Hindus, it is a Shiva Linga. If you refer back to texts like the Puranas and Mahabharata, the lingam represents Lord Shiva.

Another interesting thing about this temple is that it is not accessible by any kind of transport available in India. People offer their prayers after trekking for more than 40 miles. Located at a height of 3900 metres, this revered destination is challenge for all those who wish to make a journey of 4-5 days on foot.

Unlike other temples, Amarnath cannot be accessed throughout the year. The winter months witness heavy snowfall that completely blocks the route to the temple. Pilgrims usually visit this place between July-August which coincides with the Hindu holy month of Shraavana.

Curated by Ruchit Rastogi